On Monday, at the ongoing 2016 budget defense in the Senate, shock and disbelief enveloped Senators in the Senate Committee on Health when the Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, announced that the original budget of his ministry had been distorted and strange figures smuggled in.
The Minister’s disclosure further reinforced a recent discovery that some unscrupulous Nigerians had imported strange and conflicting figures into the 2016 budget in pursuit of their greed and corrupt tendencies.
The Health Minister urged the committee to discard the budget proposal before it and await a new estimate to be re-submitted today. He assured members of the committee that the new proposal would reflect the programmes of the health sector for the year.
A closed door session was therefore held by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Lanre Tejuosho and the Minister to thrash out emerging issues on the budget as the Minister further disclosed that there were some issues on which conclusion has not been reached by the Ministry and yet allocations have been made to them without the Ministry’s knowledge.
According to Adewole, the provisions of the budget before the National Assembly were in contrast with the priorities of the health sector as contained in the original budget it prepared. He added that some of the votes earmarked by the Ministry for some activities had been re-distributed while some important fields in the sector had been excluded.
Adewole told the committee that there were some health issues on which conclusions had not been made by the Ministry and yet allocations were made on them without the Ministry’s knowledge.
“In the revised budget as re-submitted, N15.7 billion for capital allocation has been moved to other areas. Some allocations made are not in line with our priorities. There is nothing allocated to public health and family health. Over the last two years, nothing has been done on HIV.
“We have to look into the details of the budget and re-submit it to the committee. This was not what we submitted. We‘ll submit another one. We don’t want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there. We have not reached that stage and we find the money there.”
The committee chairman said given the submission of the Health Minister, the budget before the committee was not the proposal of the Health Ministry and would therefore, be of no use working on a budget that had already been disowned.
“Honourable Minister, we need to have an executive session. You said that in this budget, public health is not there. Obviously, the budget we are looking at now is not your own,” Tejuosho said.
In a swift response, Adewole said,
“Yes, it’s not. We‘ll submit the revised document tomorrow (today). It will be an updated version of what you have.”
Adewole also disclosed that State House Clinic to which N3.9 billion had been allocated in the budget at the expense of other hospitals put together which got far less allocations, is not under the supervision of the Ministry of Health.
Explaining that the Ministry is under the Presidency, Adewole said the figure might not have been the original allocation to the clinic by State House, noting that the original allocation might have been inflated by the same forces which he said had distorted his ministry’s original estimates.
“The State House Clinic is not under the Ministry of Health. I hope it’s not the same rats that changed things in our budget that changed it. The amount is meant for procurement and purchase of medical equipment. It is very important that you engage them because what happened to us might have also happened to them. It is possible that what is there might not have been what they put there,” Adewole added.
Explaining that the ministry is under the Presidency, Adewole said the figure might not have been the original allocation to the clinic by State House, noting that the original allocation might have been inflated by the same forces which he said had distorted his Ministry’s original estimates.
“The State House Clinic is not under the Ministry of Health. I hope it’s not the same rats that changed things in our budget that changed it. The amount is meant for procurement and purchase of medical equipment. It is very important that you engage them because what happened to us might have also happened to them. It is possible that what is there, might not have been what they put there,” Adewole added.
Addressing fears of the Zika Virus outbreak by Nigerians, the minister encouraged that the virus which had been terrifying the whites were under the feet of the the blacks and should therefore be ignored. Bringing back to mind that the virus had actually been in Nigeria since 1954 but had been unable to harm citizens because Nigerians had developed strong resistance to it.
This is yet another part of the spate of controversies dogging President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2016 budget, as last week , Senate Committee on Education discovered N10 billion tucked into the education budget.